GOP pretends Obama is the hostage-taker

Congressional Republicans’ debt-ceiling strategy hasn’t been subtle: give the GOP what it wants or the party will refuse to raise the debt ceiling. For months, Democrats and others who take reality seriously have called this what it is: a hostage strategy.

Yesterday, these same Republicans decided President Obama is holding the economy hostage. No, seriously. Stop laughing. That’s really what they said.

“President Obama is holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so he can continue his spending spree,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said at a press conference. Soon after, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) made a similar comment, prompting reporters to ask if he was arguing that the president is the hostage-taker in this scenario. “Yes!” Lee said. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. That’s absolutely what I’m saying.”

No sane person could possibly take this seriously. It’s just laughable at every level. For one thing, Obama has gone to absurd lengths to strike a deal that Republicans should like. For another, it’s up to Congress to pass a bill raising the debt ceiling.

The new GOP tack is also undermined by a few Republicans who know better.

“Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

“How many Republicans have been on TV saying, ‘I am not going to raise the debt limit,’ ” said Mr. Graham, including himself in the mix of those who did so. “We have no one to blame but ourselves.”

He added, “We shouldn’t have said that if we didn’t mean it.”

Graham’s observation has the added benefit of being true. In this case, the hostage takers spent months threatening to pull the trigger, only to suddenly realize that (a) they’re not likely to get the ransom they want; and (b) they don’t really want to follow through on their threat anyway. It’s what led Mitch McConnell to come up with a safety valve this week, which by all indications, was a major walkback.

But McConnell’s not driving his party’s message right now. Indeed, the crazies are, and yesterday, they were reduced to, “Oh yeah, well Obama’s the one holding the economy hostage!”

Today, I can only assume the GOP position will evolve into an argument over which one of the parties is rubber and which one is glue.

Dave Weigel has more along these lines: “Republicans have a problem: You can’t run the McConnell play and the Bachmann/Lee play at once.”